An ongoing theme with Sœur is that while individual tracks can sometimes underwhelm on their own, their full releases tend to be much more than the sum of their parts. That was definitely the case with last year’s Fight EP, taking the trio’s brittle fusion of grunge, indie-rock and hints of post-punk away from how undeveloped isolated moments could feel, and creating a package that felt concise and interesting within the modern rock scene. It’s certainly a strange phenomenon and one that isn’t exactly common in rock of any stripe, but Sœur have fashioned something out of it that works for themselves, even if it can feel a bit touch-and-go with regards to how long that’ll be the case for. Indeed, if there’s a potential issue with Sœur’s future output, it would be how long they’ll be able to go on for with an approach that can lack a certain amount of grace and cohesion in how it all comes together.
That unfortunately seems to be getting closer to a reality with new EP No Show, as Sœur stick pretty closely to the same formula as last time in a way that only shows how limited it can be. Even among the numerous strengths that this band have (and across these five tracks, they aren’t exactly in short supply either), Sœur‘s skeletal method of construction is beginning to lose its luster, and when that forms the primary basis of a release this short, it can feel a bit disappointing when it doesn’t click nearly as much as it has in the past.
It’s not all that difficult to spot where these faults fall either, as the wiry, precise guitar lines and bass progressions still have a sense of delicacy in their balance, but it’s a case of simply not working as well as it once did. Maybe it’s just how limited this compositional palette can be, but particularly on a song like Don’t that prioritises its scratchy, low-key intricacies above the blasts of momentum that don’t appear as much as they really should, there’s an obtuseness that’s not unlikable, but lacks a discernible roil in the way that much of Fight’s material was easy to get around. That’s not always the case, as a track like Do What I Want shows in its layering of Anya Pulver and Tina Maynard’s vocals to create a really interesting flow, but the fragmented way a lot of this EP is constructed doesn’t do justice to the interesting ideas within.
That’s a shame too, because once again, Sœur do have a lot of good ideas that, when placed in a wider context, do come to fruition a lot more frequently. The vocals are the obvious standout, and the contributions from both Pulver and Maynard do a lot in forming the precarious atmospheres of the title track or Better that really does mesh well with the defiance of the writing. The production also takes some interesting routes too, as it avoids a lot of the volume and brashness of both grunge and indie-rock to once again accentuate the sense of precision, and making it all the more impactful when blasts of heavier guitar or James Collins’ powerful drumming comes in to anchor everything down. In terms of instrumental crafting and how each piece has been formed specifically to fit together, there’s definitely an enormous amount of care gone into this EP that can entirely be respected, and even if No Show as an entire body of work is quite as satisfyingly complete as its predecessor was, the creative heart is still firmly beating and operating at full capacity.
It’s why giving up on Sœur at this point would be a resoundingly pointless thing to do, as this is a pretty minor misstep in the course of a band still finding their feet. And even then, No Show really isn’t that bad; it mightn’t be as strong as its predecessor, but among both grunge and indie-rock, it’s another example of Sœur having the sort of intriguingly detailled creative strategy that’s pretty much unmatched by the vast majority of their fields. This most likely won’t be one of their defining releases to serves as proof for that statement, but there’s enough here to say that whatever comes next very well could be.
For fans of: Garbage, The Kills, PJ Harvey
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘No Show’ by Sœur is out now.